How to KEEP Blog Visitors
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GETTING blog visitors is one thing. KEEPING them is another thing. As long as you keep that distinction in mind, you’ll never go wrong.
What do I mean? When I was a kid, car manufacturers each picked a specific day in September to release their new models. It was a big deal to go to the Chevy dealership, for example, to see what was new. Now they release new models on an ongoing basis, and changes are usually slight, so we don’t have that same sense of expectation.
Back then, the local Chevy dealer did everything they could to get you on their lot. They had circus acts, local bands, free hot dogs, prize drawings, and anything else they could think up. At night, they had giant searchlights piercing the sky to attract attention. They put on a real show.
All this was aimed at getting visitors. They were trying to trigger word-of-mouth interest. They wanted people to develop a favorable opinion about the new models and then tell others.
And they wanted them and their friends and relatives to come back later and buy a car. They wanted to retain the benefits of their promotion.
For a car dealership, KEEPING customers involves having an excellent service department, periodic sales, special financing, and being involved in the community by doing things like sponsoring Little League or Soccer teams or supplying convertibles for parades.
So, what’s my point? Phase 1 is getting blog visitors. Phase 2 is keeping them coming back. Yes, they overlap in the blogging world, but to accelerate your success, you must compartmentalize them in your thoughts and actions.
What if you had a Chevy dealership, put on a big new model car launch event with lots of visitors, but then no one came back?
Most of us would ask, “What’s wrong?” This same question applies to blogging. There are steps you can take to have a more significant percentage of your invited guests to return to your blog and enjoy your content.
This chart highlights the problem. Google Analytics shows this site has 90% new visitors. But only 10% returning visitors. Those numbers are high after a new blog launch and maybe for 4-6 weeks afterward. Then you MUST take steps to retain visitors. You must turn those numbers around, so 70%-90% are returning visitors, and 10%-30% are new visitors.
Here are some of the things you can do to retain visitors.
Retain Visitors By Meeting Felt Needs
You want to continually promote your site to get new visitors. At the same time, you want to offer enough new content, and enough value in what you offer, to keep people coming back. Those who return regularly are your core fans, and you need them.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to repeat something that I have often said. That is, you want to write posts that solve a problem. Not a problem that you conjured up in your own thinking, but a real problem that people in your niche want to solve.
Solve that problem in a creative and interesting way. The solution can often be reduced to bullet points, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you must festoon your post with fascinating facts and stories to which they can relate.
You not only want to provide the solution, but you want to give them the steps they can take. You can’t give a solution and leave your reader thinking, “Huh, that was interesting,” and not offering suggestions about how they can change their mindset or their situation. People want and need help and direction. When they visit your site, they are hoping you can provide it in your topic area.
The hope you offer can be diverse. It might be the steps to do something. You may refer to them to an expert. You might even offer them a link to some product or service that will help them, even when you get an affiliate commission for doing so.
This is all why the very best question you can ask yourself when you start to write a post is, “How can I help change someone’s life for the better today?”
Think of the best restaurant you know. Do you keep going there because you like the pictures on the wall or the way the tables are arranged? Or do you go primarily because you can always count on some tasty nourishment? Do you go because you trust the chef and the wait staff to tickle your palate and give you an enjoyable experience?
Your blog should be like your favorite restaurant. You want people to return because of the good things you are serving them, and for your attitude, as you serve it.
The shocking truth: There is a lot of similar content on the Internet. Since this is the case, why do some bloggers build a significant readership, and others do not?
Your post content may be similar to posts by others, but as I have said, your personality, which includes your experiences and insights, makes your writing unique. You must let it shine through in your writing.
I may have repeated myself, but this aspect of blogging is essential to your success. You cannot get readers and keep them coming back unless you are scratching a genuine itch your readers have.
Retain Visitors by Tracking Metrics
In my experience, the last thing creative people want to do is deal with the science behind the art of blogging. I felt that way myself for many years and tell I finally woke up and understood that I could learn a lot about the health of my blog by looking at numbers.
Paying attention to the numbers is often essential. I may not feel well, but I don’t know what’s going on. Is there an upset stomach, or is it the onset of the flu? I know a quick way to find out. If it’s an upset stomach, I’m unlikely to have a temperature. If I have the flu, my temperature will start rising. I’ll base my treatment decision on the metric my thermometer provides. That’s precisely what happens when you install monitoring software on your website. You are measuring what’s happening, and that informs your decision-making process about whether you need to fix something, and if so, how to do it.
Use Google Analytics (GA) to monitor traffic. You can sign up for free at https://www.google.com/analytics, and add optional services for a fee. I’ve used GA almost since just after it started in 2005, and the free service has always met my needs.
The set-up is simple. You need to verify you own the site by sending a file they provide to your hosted website folder, and that’s about it. Once you do that, Google immediately starts monitoring your traffic and reporting it. You can watch your traffic increase over time on the many charts, graphs and other tools they offer. If your traffic does not increase, you’ll get hints about actions you need to take to reverse that.
Don’t check your traffic statistics every day. That will drive you nuts. You’ll discover they’ll go up for a while and then will drop. Typically, traffic is higher on certain days for a particular blog. What you want to monitor is weekly and monthly trends, not the daily ups and downs.
If you use a WordPress site on your own hosting, as I advocate, you can add a plugin to your site. When you go into the back-end of your website to make a post, you can also view a summary of your metrics.
There are many such plugins, but I like and use Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP) by Alin Marcu. You can find a free copy, like all other plugins, in the WordPress Plugin Directory. You install it, connect it to the Tracking ID provided by Google when you registered your site, and that’s it.
What metrics does GA measure and report on the GA site or through GADWP? You can see:
The number of users
This tells you how many unique visitors came to your site. Like all other metrics, when you use the GADWP plugin, you can filter the results by time factors. You can see how many people visited yesterday, the last week, month, year, or three year period if your blog has been around that long. GA also displays these metrics in real-time. That means you can check all these factors and see what’s happening on your site the moment you check it. That’s fun to do sometimes after you launch a special campaign, but it will drive you nuts if you do it regularly.
The number of page views
In my opinion, page views are one of the most valuable metrics. I want lots of visitors, and I want each one to stay on my site and view lots of pages. Nothing pleases me more than seeing my page views, along with time on page, climb to ever-increasing heights. That means I am writing useful posts that hold reader attention, and that’s an essential indicator of success.
The number of organic searches
Organic search results show the effectiveness of the SEO search terms you have implanted in your blog posts. If you’re showing high organic search numbers, it means that your posts have keywords and phrases that are good enough to get you top positions in search engine page results. Matching keywords and phrases you used to user intent means the people who come to your site are likely to be your most faithful readers and customers. They are coming to you on purpose, and that’s a good thing.
Are you yawning? Does all this seem to complex? Rest easy, it’s not. Once you set up Google Analytics (easy to do), and pipe the stats to your site using GADWP (a plug-in), all you have to do is view charts and graphs. All the data I talk about here is at your fingertips without any extra work on your part. You can decide for yourself what stats are most important to you.
The length of time people remain on a page
You want people to stay on a page and read it from top to bottom. The longer they stay on a page, the more importance (authority) your site has in the eyes of Google search rankings. If visitors click on the link shown in search results, takes a quick look, and see what you offer isn’t relevant to them, they will click away. That’s not desirable. What is it about your content that makes visitors move away so fast?
If people stay on a single page, then bounce to another site, which increases a metric called the “bounce rate,” and you want that to be as small as possible. At the very least, you want to present your content so that people visit at least one other page on your site before they exit. That reduces your bounce rate.
You can see many other metrics in GA via GADWP. Once you have added it to your site, you’ll learn many wondrous things about your site performance and effectiveness.
GA also helps you analyze who you are reaching. There are many ways to do that, but here are two of my favorites.
Target pages. You can see how many sessions you had for each page that was visited. On one of my sites, I had 2,270 visits from all sources for one week. Of that number, 810 visitors arrived at my home page, 89 to a post about voice writing, 55 to an article about Ernest Hemingway, 53 visits to a page about Kindle Select, and so forth. With GA, I can see the traffic to any particular target page during the time periods I select.
This is an excellent way to what blog articles are getting the most traffic and should inform your actions. For example, these numbers told me I need to get more relevant contented on my home page so people would click on it and go deeper into my site.
It also told me there was a reasonably large audience interested in voice writing (dictating blog posts and books) and that I needed to do more promotion for my online course on that topic.
The Ernest Hemingway page visits were good, but all the famous writer blog post on that site are there to help new writers, but it seemed like I was attracting many students who needed help with their homework.
All of my websites are aimed at adults, no one under age 13 because of the relevant laws, and so I faced a conundrum. Should I add content and affiliate offers of interest to younger people, or should I just let it be? I decided to let it be and let all my famous author blog posts benefit whoever they may.
Over time, you see trends from these target page statistics. You want to write more posts on similar topics to those who are getting the highest number of hits.
Referrers. GA metrics allow you to see links to the websites that are sending you traffic. You’ll see that people follow links from a wide range of sites to get to your site. That’s why back-linking, which I explained previously, is so important.
Looking at refers on one of my sites, I saw that in seven days I got 223 visitors from Facebook, 127 from one of my sister sites that links to it, and 534 visits from 73 third-party websites, which are listed by URL, who sent traffic to me via links.
There’s another way to detect the reach of your blog that does not involve GA. You set your WordPress site so it alerts you when someone leaves a comment. You can then decide whether or not you want to approve the comment. But whether you approve it or not, you can gain information about the source of the person who makes the comment. If they have a website, they’ll often enter that information when they leave the comment. Sometimes you can infer the source from the feedback the person makes.
It’s an excellent habit to respond to all who comment on your site. It may be a simple “thank you,” or you may provide additional information, or you may clarify what you meant. Responding in a timely way to people who comment is an excellent way to build a relationship with them and to keep them as blog visitors.
I’m always very interested in the comments my site visitors make because it helps me understand more about my reach, and it also helps me know how well I’m meeting the felt needs of my readers. I get many ideas for new blog posts from comments on old posts.
Retain Visitors by Watching Competitors
Occasionally I’ll go to Google and type in the keywords I have used for particular posts. I can see for myself where those posts appear in the search results. There are more scientific ways to do that, but I like to Google myself in this way.
Not only do I see my ranking, but I can also see the competitors who are writing on the same topic. That’s always instructive.
It’s wise for you to know who the competitors are in your niche. You can learn from them and you can sometimes form alliances with them.
One of the best ways to form an alliance is to do a guest post for each other. That way, people interested in the topic learn new things and discover new sites.
The fast, easy way to find your competitors is to go to Google and type this in the search box:
blog + [your topic]
For example, if you write on paleo diets, type: blog + paleo
If your blog is about roses, type: blog + roses
… and so forth.
The most popular blogs dealing with the topic will appear. Yes, you may get some misfires, like a blogger whose name is Rose, but most will be what you’re seeking. It’s worth your effort to examine the top 25 blogs that appear. Keep a list so that you can check them out periodically.
When you visit your competitors, sign up for their newsletters. That’s an easy way to see what trends they are covering. You never want to steal their ideas, but you can definitively use their site content and newsletter as inspiration. By the way, I use a particular Gmail address I use to sign up for all newsletters. You don’t want them flooding your primary email address.
Never plagiarize, but remember there is no new idea under the sun. Everyone is getting inspiration from someone else. Read, think, and create something unique. That is the heart of the creative process. If you haven’t read my article and watched the video about “Creative Remixing” in Step 4 Bonus Content, be sure you see it.
A Mailing List is Essential
I have saved this for last because it is probably the best way to keep blog visitors coming back. Once people find you through your promotions, social media, SEO, or other means, you want to conserve your results. You do that by collecting the first name and email address of your visitors. I cover the entire process in detail in the Bonus Content for this Step (“Automated Email Newsletter Guide“) and so this is an introduction to the topic.
Collecting the Data
They will gladly give you this information if you offer them something they want. Not only do you provide a periodic email newsletter, but you give people a bonus to motivate them to sign up.
Should you ask for more than a first name and email address? Studies have shown people willingly give you this, but are reluctant to give more, like their last name. They certainly don’t want to provide you with their address or phone number in almost all cases.
Many people do like “pop-ups.” However, studies have revealed that site visitors respond to them on a large scale. If you want to collect a high percentage of names and email addresses, you must use them.
How you use is the key. If you pop up a sign-up from the moment a person starts reading a page, you’re going to get some blow-back. If you wait until a reader has scrolled half-way down the page, you’ll get a better reception.
Some bloggers like the idea of the pop-up appearing as a person exits the blog. It’s less effective (fewer sign-ups), but it’s also less intrusive.
You can also put an ad-like graphic in your blog header, footer, or sidebar and invite people to click to sign up. They go to a page where you display your bonus offer and where they can sign up. This is the least effective way to build your mailing list and is not recommended.
Remember, the process of collecting data is automated. There are many companies that have automated systems. You hear of companies like MailChimp and GetResponse because of the huge amount of money on advertising. However, professional bloggers and online marketers tend to use two companies you never heard of, ConvertKit and AWeber. But are a cut above the other consumer-oriented companies I mentioned.
Your Bonus Offer
What kind of bonus should you offer? It depends on the topic of your blog. Generally, you want something in digital format so people can sign-up and get rewarded immediately.
A short ebook on some fascinating aspects of your topic may entice them. You usually offer it in PDF format that they can download automatically after their email address is confirmed.
Creating Your Auto-Response Newsletter
They all simplify and automate the entire sign-up and newsletter delivery process. I have tried them all, and I like MailChimp.com best. You can build your list to 2,000 subscribers before you start paying for their service.
I’m going to make a strong statement. Don’t launch your blog until your mailing list software is installed and tested. You are wasting your time, money, and influence if you invite them to your blog but have no way to keep in touch with them.
How often should you send your newsletter? You can send a regular newsletter monthly, or you can send one every time you add a post. Give people an idea of what they’re signing up for when you collect their data. You never want to spam them with unwanted material. Some people will unsubscribe if they don’t like what you’re sending, and that’s okay.
You increase your readership and sphere of influence when you have a mailing list. You want to grow it to be as large as possible.
Also, if you have products and services related to your blog topic, you can offer them to the people on your mailing list. They are your most dedicated followers and you’ll get your best response from them.
Promoting your blog is a never-ending process. You can’t do it once and forget it. Some successful bloggers dedicate at least 2 hours per day to promoting their blog in the beginning, and then it levels out to 2-3 hours per week. That’s what it takes to get and maintain visibility.
Step 6 Action Plan
In conclusion, you want to be systematic as you monitor these three aspects of your site performance. Metrics are not something that you set and forget. After you put them in place, you want to set aside an hour each week to look at each of the three elements, see if you’re making progress, and take remedial steps if you’re not.
- Some people think they should see a meteoric rise in their statistics. That seldom happens. What you’re looking for is a slow, steady rise in your various metrics. You want to evaluate your site not only weekly but also on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
- When trends are up, you want to think about things you can do to increase your reach. For example, if you see a traffic spike on a particular day, you want to go back and see which post generated an unusual amount of traffic. You want to write more like it.
- Sometimes you’ll see that this spike was from a post about a rather ordinary topic. That generally means that someone linked to that particular post and increased your traffic. In that case, your metrics will tell you the source of the traffic and you’ll want to contact that site owner, thank them for liking your post and sending you traffic, and see if you can pitch another post to them. That way, you can build upon your success.
- What if your site has little traffic or long downward trends? You need to make corrections. If you did your research as I suggested in chapter 1, then you can be confident that both you and others are passionate about your topic. It’s almost always too early to switch topics — you want to evaluate other elements that might be causing downward trends.
- One of the main things that may be a problem is that your blog posts are not fascinating enough. If you are guilty of being a boring writer, then you need to correct that immediately.
You want to be systematic in your evaluation of your own work. You want to follow best blogging practices to build your site, but you want to monitor it consistently to make sure you are getting ever-increasing traffic.
Do you have a QUESTION about Plan Step 6? Ask it HERE